CORRECTED-Canadian billionaire Stronach to end foray into Austrian politics

Wed Oct 23, 2013 2:06pm EDT
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(Changes currency conversion in paragraph 12 to million from billion)

* Stronach to bow out in next 18 months

* Gaffes on China, death penalty marred election campaign

* Rare attempt to break centrist mould of Austrian politics

By Georgina Prodhan

VIENNA, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach is to retire from Austrian politics after a year-long adventure that culminated in a poor poll showing and the near self-destruction of his party.

The maverick 81-year-old industrialist scored a disappointing 6 percent in national elections last month, after voter disenchantment with the centrist status quo had propelled him as high as 10 percent in early opinion polls.

Stronach, a self-styled anti-establishment politician, lost ground after an embarrassing series of television debates, in which he warned of the danger of Chinese troops "marching in" to Austria, and voiced support for the death penalty.

Amid disarray in his Team Stronach party in the wake of the election and multiple firings of top party officials, the founder of car-parts firm Magna International and Austrian parliamentarian said he had had enough.   Continued...